Review: ‘A Very Good Girl,’ starring Kathryn Bernardo and Dolly de Leon

October 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Kathryn Bernardo and Dolly de Leon in “A Very Good Girl” (Photo courtesy of Star Media)

“A Very Good Girl”

Directed by Petersen Vargas

Some language in Tagalog with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Philippines capital of Manila, the comedy/drama film “A Very Good Girl” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A young woman decides to get revenge on her wealthy former boss who fired her, and secrets and lies are revealed.

Culture Audience: “A Very Good Girl” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching campy dark comedies.

Dolly de Leon and Kathryn Bernardo in “A Very Good Girl” (Photo courtesy of Star Media)

Alternating between melodramatic and campy, “A Very Good Girl “benefits from the talented performance of Dolly de Leon as a ruthless and conniving business mogul who is more complicated than she first seems to be. It’s a twist-filled revenge story. It’s also a very dark comedy that has fun with its soap-opera qualities.

Directed by Petersen Vargas, “A Very Good Girl” was written by Marionne Dominique Mancol, Daniel S. Saniana and Jumbo A. Albano. The movie takes place in the Philippines capital of Manila. At times, “A Very Good Girl” appears to be a parody of who people use social media to present images of themselves that are very different from real life.

“A Very Good Girl” begins at a charity event taking place in what appears to be a museum. A valuable gold figurine is up for sale. Molly “Mother” Suzara (played by Dolly de Leon) is a business mogul known for her shopping malls. Molly wants the figurine, and she’s used to getting what she wants.

However, Molly is surprised to learn that the figurine has already been purchased by Philomena “Philo” Angeles (played by Kathryn Bernardo), who is introduced as a glamorous socialite. Molly offers to buy the figurine from Philo, who politely declines the offer. Molly is visibly annoyed and quickly leaves the event.

Philo follows Molly outside and starts gushing about how much she admires Molly, who isn’t impressed by this flattery. She snaps at Philo the word “bullshit” every time Philo gives Molly an over-the-top compliment. Philo then offers to give the gold figurine to Molly for free. This gift seems to do the trick, and Molly invites Philo to spend some time with her.

Viewers soon find out that Philomena “Philo” Angeles is an alias for Mercedes “Mercy” Novela, who does not really want to be Molly’s friend. She wants revenge on Molly for two reasons: The first reason is because about five years before, Molly callously fired Mercy and some other employees. The second reason is much more personal and tragic and won’t be revealed in this review, but it has to do with how Mercy’s mother Angel Aquino (played by Conchita Novela, shown in flashbacks) died five years ago.

When Mercy worked in the marketing department of Molly’s company, Mercy wasn’t as glamorous-looking as she looks now, under her invented persona of Philo. The fact that Molly doesn’t recognize Mercy, years after firing her, is an example of how Molly tosses people aside and doesn’t care to remember much about them. There are several scenes of Molly treating the people around her as worthless and disposable, including her loyal young assistant Gene (played by Ana Abad Santos), who is the very definition of a sycophant.

In public, Molly (who is a bachelorette with no children) has a smiling, maternal image and presents herself as a self-made millionaire who represents positive female empowerment. At the grand opening of one of her new shopping malls, she says to the assembled media that she is naming it Mother Mall, after her beloved mother, who is deceased. Behind the scenes, Molly is really a tyrant who surrounds herself with “yes people,” some of whom she considers to be her “friends.” Molly often insists that the people close to her call her Mother.

After being fired from Molly’s company, Mercy found out that Molly blacklisted Mercy from working at other marketing agencies. Mercy considered suing Molly for unlawful termination, but the attorney she meets with declines to take her case. Mercy has currently been financially struggling by working as a virtual assistant. Most of her clients are very rude and demanding American men.

Mercy lives with her best friend Karen Merino (played by Donna Cariaga), who is one of the few people who knows about Mercy’s revenge plan. Mercy and Karen are so close, they call each other “sister” or “sis.” Mercy is the godmother single mother Karen’s daughter Lovely (played by Natania Guerrero), who’s about 5 or 6 years old and needs surgery for some health problems. Mercy calls Lovely her “niece” and acts like she is Lovely’s aunt.

The rest of “A Very Good Girl” shows how Mercy/Philo ingratiates herself into Molly’s world, all with the intent to destroy Molly. Molly doesn’t really trust a lot of people, and she seems competitive with other women, especially those who are younger than she is. Therefore, Mercy/Philo has to work extra-hard to gain Molly’s trust. As a way to do that, Mercy/Philo tells Molly that she reminds Philo of her own mother, who passed away. At the time Mercy/Philo tells Molly this sentimental remark, Mercy/Philo deliberately keeps information about her mother vague.

Someone who gets caught in the middle of these manipulations is Zab Omila (played by Chie Filomeno), a social media influencer/brand ambassador, who is very shallow and dimwitted. Zab knows a scandalous secret about Molly that involves one of Zab’s parents. Another person who becomes an unwitting pawn is Molly’s other assistant: a good-looking young man Charles Monteron (played by Jake Ejercito), who is very sexist and demeaning to women.

Some of “A Very Good Girl” gets sordid, such as scenes of revenge porn, genital mutilation, and knife attacks. Nothing in the movie is too graphic, but a lot of the subject matter might be somewhat offensive to sensitive viewers. The movie’s cinematography gives “A Very Good Girl” a look that is both glossy and noir-ish.

Bernardo plays the role as the vengeful Philo/Mercy with much more campiness than de Leon, who is by far the most talented person in the cast and is the main reason to watch this movie. Molly has some vulnerabilities that make her little more sympathetic than the average villain. In “A Very Good Girl,” Philo/Mercy is the title character, but “Mother” Molly is the one who steals the show.

Star Cinema released “A Very Good Girl” in select U.S. cinemas on October 6, 2023. The movie was released in the Philippines on September 27, 2023.

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